The Queen orders Portsmouth ship to 'splice the mainbrace' | Nostalgia

You might remember my article two years ago about Captain Gordon Walwyn who, in 1977, organised the Silver Jubilee Fleet Review at Spithead.

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 6:17 pm
HMS Antrim's company gives three cheers to the Queen as the ship steams past Britannia. Picture: Gordon Walwyn collection.

Well, once the dust had settled on all that he was appointed commander of the county-class destroyer HMS Antrim.

He had to join the ship in Norfolk, Virginia, and she then sailed for the Caribbean. In the October of that year she became the escort for the royal yacht Britannia during the Queen’s jubilee tour of the West Indies.

The ship visited several islands with local dignitaries attending cocktail parties on board. On one occasion, when visiting the Bahamas, the great jazz pianist and bandleader William ‘Count’ Basie attended. On October 18, 1977, Antrim arrived in Nassau remaining until October 20.

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Captain Walwyn with Count Basie.

One unfortunate aspect of the tour was that some officers were struck down with food poisoning from eating grouper fish. All aircrew were grounded except for emergencies. Everyone recovered from the illness which was not infectious.

At the end of the tour the Queen sent the following signal to Capt Walwyn: ‘Thank you for your escort to the West Indies. I was much impressed by the admirable way in which you carried out your duties, by the smart appearance of your ship and her company, and by your steam-past last Saturday. Prince Philip and I send our best wishes to all on board and hope you have a pleasant passage to Rosyth.’

Added to the signal was: ‘By command of Her Majesty the Queen – splice the mainbrace.’ The royal party later flew home in Concorde.

On March 7, 1978, with his wife, Wendy and son and daughter, Captain Walwyn was made a CVO (Commander of the Victorian Order) at Buckingham Palace for his part in planning and organising that fleet review.

HMS Antrim’s new commander, Capt Gordon Walwyn, meets the ship’s officers. Picture: Gordon Walwyn collection.

The photograph of HMS Antrim passing Britannia shows the ship’s company giving the traditional salute of the royal escort. She had escorted the yacht to Nassau, the Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbados.

Antrim arrived back in Portsmouth in time for Christmas 1977 and everyone on board had tans.

In his career, Captain Walwyn served in HMS Marylon in the Far East, as lieutenant, HMS Falmouth as commander, HMS Antrim as captain, RN Tactical school as captain and HMS Bristol as captain.

• We hear much about women’s equality these days, but back in the day there were two forms of execution for murderers in Portsmouth. In 1241, if a man killed he was burnt at the stake. But if a woman murdered she was tied to a stake at low water. When the tide came in she drowned.

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